Hot flashes — ubiquitous in menopause forums and hyped by pharmaceutical companies — can be a frustrating aspect of womanhood. Women who suffer from hot flashes seek simple explanations and answers to their symptoms. Here you will find legitimate information about hot flashes, their characteristics, causes, and management.
About Hot Flashes
It is estimated that between 75 - 85% of American women experience hot flashes at some point in their lives, but how can a woman know if what she is experiencing is actually a hot flash? Here are some telltale symptoms of hot flashes:
- Sudden rush of heat that disappears quickly
- Rapid heart rate
- Flushed or warm skin
- Profuse perspiration
Some women also experience hot flashes during their sleep. These are known as night sweats, and they come with the same list of symptoms. Many women don't actually realize they've experienced one unless it is powerful enough to wake them or the sheets are still damp enough to notice in the morning.
Causes of Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are linked to menopause and the hormonal changes that occur during these transitional years. When hormones like estrogen fluctuate, the hypothalamus — the region of the brain responsible for body temperature regulation — reacts by causing a woman's body to heat up as though she is experiencing a mini-fever. There are, however, several other potential causes of hot flashes in women. These include:
- Thyroid disease
- Certain medications
- Panic disorder
Women who know or suspect that they're experiencing hot flashes due to one of the above conditions should talk to their doctors about possible treatment and management options.
Managing Hot Flashes
Hot flashes can be relatively simple to manage, and women have a variety of options to help them manage their hot flashes naturally.
- Cool atmosphere. Installing some mood lighting and burning incense for relaxation might do the trick. Keeping a small fan handy, cranking up the air conditioner, and opening some windows are good ideas, and having an excuse to keep the refrigerator stocked with refreshing beverages is an added bonus.
- Breezy clothing. No more polyester and spandex. Clothes made with natural fabrics — like cotton — have a breathable quality that can prevent women from getting overheated and help them feel cooler if a hot flash flares up.
- Leisurely pace. Keeping heart rate down has also been shown to help women prevent frequent or intense hot flashes. For this reason, women should leave some extra time in order to prevent running to catch the bus or whirling into a meeting at the last minute.
Women who want to take full control over their bodies, including managing hot flashes, have a variety of treatment options. A combination of the following types of strategies for curbing hot flashes can give women the extra support they need:
- Lifestyle changes
- Alternative medicine
Women should explore these options and talk to their doctors about the most effective route to relief given their personal medical profile and preferences.
- National Health Service UK. (2015). Hot flushes: how to cope. Retrieved January 8, 2016, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
- Sikon, A. & Thacker, H. (2004). Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 71(7).
- Weir, E. (2004). Hot flashes ... in January. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 170 (1), 39-40. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC305309/